by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Though the Dallas Region’s health care industry’s appetite for workers is voracious, expectations for workers are increasing, from entry-level kitchen workers to administrative staff.
A panel of health care experts assembled by the Dallas Regional Chamber agrees: current and future workers in the health care industry must be renaissance men and women, with feet firmly planted in delivering compassionate patient care, while embracing constant change in technologies, regulations and innovations. A recorded taping of the event by Dallas County Community College District is below.
That was the consensus reached April 20 at the Chamber’s Health Care Industry Convening, which included panelists from a cross section of disciplines within the industry, from non-profit caregiving, to banking, to data analysis.
“I’d say 99.5 percent [of our staff members] are impacted by technology, from physicians and nurses, to administrators down to housekeepers and food and dietary people,” said Felicia Miller, Chief Human Resources Director for Dallas-based Tenet Health, which delivers patient care across 47 states, through about 130,000 employees. Miller said some of the hardest positions for Tenet to fill are facilities engineers, who must manage some buildings that are 50 years or older, while still mastering digital technology at work at its newest facilities.
Panelists agreed that smaller health care providers are still hiring job candidates who have certificates and associate’s degrees, but workers who want to advance professionally, especially in larger institutions, need to obtain four-year degrees and beyond. Workers should also be capable writers, especially when it comes to helping their institutions obtain grants, they added.
Beyond obtaining academic and training credentials, health care workers must master so-called “soft-skills” – the ability to effectively and empathetically interact with other people while serving or working with them. Many panelists said it’s key to develop those skills early in professional careers.
“There are people with good communication skills, but usually, they are… good at talking to people who are like them,” said Kristin Jenkins, Senior Vice President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. “This (caring for patients) takes more. This takes being able to connect with people who are not like you and who are not from your background. Because the work that we do includes so many diverse people and populations, that is very important.”
The industry experts also recommended that individuals interested in pursuing careers in health care should get involved in customer service or in some aspect of health care as early as possible.
Jenkins, for example, suggested that younger prospective employees should even wait tables, work retail or serve consumers in some other way, to learn the art of making customers happy.
Freda Wright, Vice President of Managed Care for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, encouraged those interested in health care careers to work in supporting capacities in the industry, such as at the front desk of a hospital office, where they can learn about hospital operations and the nuances of various insurance plans.
Panelist Barry Haley, Senior Treasury Solutions Manager for Health Care and Institutions for Bank of America, said that extended care industry is always looking for help in patient care.
“It’s a good way to dip your toe in the water, to understand the mission side,” Haley said.
Seeing health care operations at the ground level can help employees from all aspects of health care appreciate their end-goal of helping patients, panelists said. And, in inverse, it’s important for staff to understand their organization’s overall business picture as well.
Tenet Health’s Felicia Miller recalled her early experiences in caring for others, with her mother.
“My mother was a psychiatric social worker,” Miller said. “Early on, I had to deliver food [to people] under bridges. And Christmas toys. And give up things I didn’t want to give up, but needed to give up, for charity. I think it teaches the very fundamentals of health care and what health care’s about.”
Along those lines, panelists said the health care industry is especially in need of behavioral and psychiatric specialists.
Taking part in solving problems and innovating are also becoming crucial for health care industry employees, panelists said.
Axxess home health care software company Vice President of Human Resources Melody Lenox said teachers must encourage students to independently resolve problems and to be curious, independent thinkers.
“We want students really looking to… think about new ways to solve a problem,” she said. “That’s a skillset that can be stifled in an education system.”
“Curiosity and asking questions are very important,” she added. “If you have someone who’s curious, they’re going to ask you, ‘Why?’ If they understand why, they can help you sustain the innovation you have or help you solve a problem you might not know you had.”
From a purely technical standpoint, panelist Nicole Chisolm, a program evaluation director for Prism Health North Texas, said health care institutions are in need of two types of coders: software coders and individuals who, in the medical billing process, assign billing codes relating to health care administered to patients.
Software coders are especially helpful because they can help institutions measure their effectiveness, she said.
“Everything is so focused on outcomes and measureable successes, no matter what role you’re in,” Chisolm said. “If you’re in finance, you’re looking at cost efficiencies. If you’re in project management, you’re looking at efficient use of time and resources.”
The Chamber held the convening, sponsored by Bank of America, as part of its mission of working with educators and employers to help create better career options for students and to establish a highly trained workforce for the Dallas Region’s economy.
University of Texas Chancellor William H. McRaven told members of the Dallas Regional Chamber that education leaders in Texas are combining to make headway in resolving the issue of allowing credits earned through high schools and community colleges, to transfer to two-year and to four-year institutions.
“We need to make sure that when these courses are taken in community colleges, that we have transfer and affiliation agreements, so that we know everybody understands what the pathway looks like,” McRaven said, speaking at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s March 24 State of Higher Education forum at The Fairmont Hotel in Downtown Dallas. “So that everybody understands that if a course is not going to apply to an (UT) Arlington, or a (UT) Dallas, they need to know that right up front.”
According to McRaven, one important effort in that direction will be the creation of a high school duel-credit task force that will help assure that the course credits high school and community college students are earning will be more broadly accepted at other institutions of higher learning. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is establishing the task force along with the Texas Education Agency and community colleges, he said.
“What we learned early on was that a lot of kids coming out of high school were just not ready for college,”said McRaven, a retired U.S. Navy four-star admiral. “So, we got together with TEA, and the coordinating board, and the campuses,” he said. “Because that was an area where we could move the needle.”
McRaven, who is implementing an eight-point “quantum-leap” plan to improve education in Texas, made those statements in a fireside-chat style discussion with Dallas education policy expert William McKenzie, Editorial Director at the George W. Bush Institute.
McRaven said the duel-credit issue is crucial to Texas’ initiative to have 60 percent of its workforce to hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2030 (referred to as the 60X30TX higher education strategic plan).
“If you want to make sure we’re the most educated population in the nation by ‘Year X,’ then we’ve got to make sure that we understand everything from transferability of credit hours, the duel credit and how it applies to student readiness, we have to understand how we work with independent school districts to prepare their students to be college ready,” McRaven said. “I know they’re doing that. That has to continue, and we’ve got to double-down on that. Higher ed can’t stay in its own silo, and say we’re just going to have the best higher ed system. That doesn’t work.”
“I think we’ve had tremendous success with our community colleges,” McRaven said, adding that he has a sister who sits on the Austin Community College Board. “It is a partnership (with higher education) that we need to strengthen as much as we can. The issue of transferability is something we need to work on.”
Other issues McRaven brushed upon:
The importance of higher education
“How can too much education be a bad thing? I don’t understand that… I was at a Bloomberg interview in New York City, and there was a higher ed reporter and a national security reporter. He said, ‘I want to know what’s the number-one national security issue.’ I said it’s pre-K through 12. My point to him was, if we don’t start educating our young men and women to be able to think critically, to be prepared to go to college, to have a liberal – in the classic sense of a liberal college education, and a liberal understanding of the world at large – if we don’t teach them these things at a very young (age), if they’re not reading level by the time they’re in third or fourth grade, the chances of them getting to college are very, very difficult. If we don’t solve that problem as a nation, we will have all sorts of issues that we won’t be able to solve in the future… and a lot of them will be national security issues, because we will have an uneducated population that will not know how to solve the issues that are outside our borders.”
Affordability of higher education
“People talk about how higher education is too costly. That is a narrative that we’ve got to stop. The average debt in the University of Texas system is about $22,000. Twenty-two thousand dollars: the cost of a bachelor’s degree. That’s the price of a small car, and by the way, it doesn’t depreciate. And about 67 percent of our students get some kind of financial help. Education is not too expensive. We talk about the trillion dollars in student debt, and I got it. But individual students aren’t bearing a trillion dollars in debt. It’s a problem nationally. But I’ve got to tell you, the public institutions in the state of Texas are the best bargains in the world, bar none.”
The Dallas Regional Chamber held the March 24 State of Higher Education event as part of its mission of working with educators and employers to help create better career options for students, and to establish a highly trained workforce for the Dallas Region’s economy.
The State of Higher Education was presented by The Broaddus Companies, and supported by silver sponsors EY, Oncor, and The University of Texas-Arlington.
By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Representatives from nearly two dozen Dallas Region companies with strong software development components gathered to discuss the skills and attributes most in demand in their industry at a roundtable discussion organized by the Dallas Regional Chamber on Jan. 24. Their consensus: Companies in the Dallas Region are in immediate need of software developers for projects they’re rolling out right now. While representatives from larger companies said they still expect job candidates to hold four-year degrees, smaller firms indicated they wouldn’t turn away individuals who hold relevant developer certifications in areas such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Salesforce, or even strong object-oriented programming skills. Both large and small firm representatives agreed that their ideal job candidates would have strong problem-solving skills, a willingness to learn new aptitudes to meet company objectives, and individuals who will readily work within a team. They also agreed that a proposed 2017 Texas Education Association list of software certifications is dated and in need of additional in-demand certifications. Some educators who attended the discussion said they have a strong need for industry-experienced developers who could teach in-demand skills on their campuses.
Video recorded by and provided courtesy of Dallas County Community College District
By Dave Moore, Data Journalist and Staff Writer
The leaders of two nonprofit organizations new to the Dallas Region discussed their missions to bridge the gap from entry-level jobs to higher-skilled, higher-paying positions on Nov. 29 at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s third Education to Employment Outlook Series.
Jamai Blivin, Founder and CEO of Innovate+Educate, and Garrett Moran, President of Year Up, said Dallas’ growing economy in information technology, health care and retail services made the region a logical next step for their work.
Year Up is already working with about 200 Dallas Region residents, said Moran, whose nonprofit serves about 3,000 students nationwide. Innovate+Educate, meanwhile, aims to train more than 2,000 individuals in the Dallas Region annually to help participants move from lower-skill, lower-paid positions to the next level.
The Dallas Regional Chamber invited both nonprofit leaders as part of its mission of working with educators and employers to help create better career options for students and to establish a highly trained workforce for the Dallas Region’s economy.
Event moderator Alfreda B. Norman, Senior Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said one misperception many prospective employees have is that if they don’t go to college, they must settle for entry-level jobs, with little chance for advancement.
Year Up and Innovate+Educate both aim to bridge that gap by preparing potential workers for positions that have opportunities for advancement built in.
Year Up, aimed at low-income high-school graduates ages 18-24, trains young adults with job skills and coursework that is eligible for college credit. Virtually all students who complete their first six months of training – which is Information Technology intensive, and emphasizes professional development – are then paired up with corporate partners and mentors, and serve internships in the program’s remaining six months. Year Up operates in 16 major metro areas, including the Dallas Region, and endeavors to fill 12 million higher-skill jobs with 6 million young adults who are looking for work.
Innovate+Educate works with employees and employers to help workers with entry-level jobs progress higher in the ranks of their companies. The nonprofit, which has several ventures across the U.S., encourages companies to value their employees’ life skills as they might pursue a formal degree or certification.
Blivin said the top core competency employers are looking for in hires is Excel, followed by customer service skills, Microsoft Office, scheduling, and the ability to have successful contact with customers.
Moran said Year Up has plenty of corporate partners but is looking for participants, who sometimes question whether the nonprofit – which exacts no fee from its trainees – is too good to be true.
“If you know of any 18- to 24-year-olds looking for a job, send them to us,” Moran said, adding that the biggest obstacle for employment in that population is obtaining reliable transportation.
Event series sponsors were Oncor, State Farm Insurance Companies, Texas Instruments, and the University of North Texas System.
Early Matters Dallas is a historic, broad-based coalition of business, civic, education, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations and volunteers who believe that quality early learning for all children can change the economic trajectory of our region in one generation. Launched in 2015 in concert with Early Matters Houston, the partnership is working collectively to raise awareness about the importance of high-quality early learning today for a strong economy tomorrow. Early Matters was originally formed in September 2014 by the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), and the Dallas Regional Chamber and GHP partner regularly on a variety of issues important to the business community, including education and advocacy.
In November 2016, Early Matters Dallas Governing Board members and leaders held an inaugural two-day summit to explore issues related to kindergarten readiness and third grade reading in Dallas County, and to raise awareness within the business community around the need for sustainable funding for quality early learning. Every dollar invested in early childhood education yields an $8.60 return on investment associated with remedial education, criminal justice, and public assistance. This is due in part to the fact that 90 percent of the brain develops by age 5, yet only 5 percent of public dollars are spent on early childhood education. In Dallas County alone, 43 percent of kindergartners do not start ready to learn, limiting their future achievement.
The pipeline to building a skilled workforce begins with high-quality pre-kindergarten, and is central to the work done by Early Matters Dallas and partners like the Dallas Regional Chamber. The top predictor of a child’s third-grade readiness is whether that child entered kindergarten ready to learn. Consequentially, children who are not reading at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. In the coming years, more than half of new jobs in Texas will require some form of postsecondary education.
In the upcoming 85th Texas Legislative Session, Early Matters leaders and a number of their 150 partner organizations will make a strong case for increased financial resources allocated to this critical, high-return-on-investment area. The aligned advocacy efforts of Dallas and Houston will represent one in four children in Texas.
How can companies around the DFW Metroplex help? Start by being an advocate for early learning within your company and your personal networks. Invite an Early Matters Dallas Governing Board Member to speak with your company about the importance of quality early learning. Sign up for advocacy alerts through the Early Matters Dallas website. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor supporting high-quality early learning. Volunteer, and ask your colleagues and employees to volunteer, as a literacy tutor to young children and/or to spread the word in your company and community about pre-K registration in the spring.
There are also many ways to support employees who are parents of young children. The roles they play in their children’s earliest days set the trajectory of lifelong success and happiness. Early Matters Dallas is asking members of the regional corporate community to engage employees in learning more about the importance of early learning and to become advocates for change for all children in the Dallas Region. For more information and resources, visit earlymattersdallas.org, Facebook (/EarlyMattersDallas), or Twitter (@EarlyMattersDFW).
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